Wednesday, 19 August 2009

On a Whim

I've never been much of a racer. I've raced and raced allot in my 15 odd years of riding mountain bikes but to be fair I've never really achieved a great deal by the way of sizzling results. It has by no means dampened my enthusiasm for the all things bike, In fact having helped start this team with Chris D I delight in reading all of your exploits and find my self growing more and more envious of some of the longer distance rides you guys have been doing and my focus is now changing to the long player version of the bike ride. Being short of time this year I'm only managing to get out on my bike once a fortnight if I'm lucky so I cherish the time on the bike I have.

I woke up on Friday morning like any other day, sort the kids in there morning routine, got ready to go to work and then the phone rings. My Brother and Sister in law call up to invite the family up to there place on the Black Isle. Then in hits me, like I said above I've been really inspired by some of your long distance rides you guys have been doing and on a whim I declare to Ali my wife that YES we shall go north and I will ride my cross bike!!! So a plan was hatched and I spent the rest of Friday working a little and doing a lot of bike prep, sorting what I would eat and checking the weather.

Saturday 5am

I wake after a rubbish nights sleep partly due to my 7 month old daughters snoring and partly due to the excitement and thought of spending the whole day on my bike. It has been a long time.

The weather is rubbish and still raining but I am still going. Toast, tea, cereal and strong coffee is consumed. Kiss the kids and the wife whilst they still sleep and I slip out the back door to my waiting cross bike (possibly the worlds ugliest bike) I head out of Moulin with a light mist of rain and all the streets of the Pit are quiet. The first leg of the Journey takes the old A9 from Pitlochry to Calvine via Killiecrankie where I join an my old Friend Pete a 67 year old keen cyclist who has got up early to join me on the ride as far as Dalnacardoch . I'm thankful for the company and the chat and the first 15 miles disappear before my legs have realized that they have done them.






Having bid farewell to Pete at Dalnacardoch I start the long steady climb up to the Drumochter pass and the the start of the highlands proper. My legs are feeling really good to my surprise and I tap out a steady rhythm when I get to the first of several gates to pass. I lean frankenbike against the fence and open the gate. I retrieve my bike to find I have suffered a very weird mechanical. My headset has seized with the bars stuck at 90 degrees. They were just fine 2 minutes ago!!! Perplexed by this I break out the multitool and start the loosening and tightening process to try and fix the problem when what seems like the entire population of Scotland's Midges descend upon me and attempt to carry me away by the armpits to there lair. They were thick in the air and I could feel a few disappear down my wind pipe. Fumbling with the multitool I finally fix the headset issue and race away from the midges as fast I can. My lower legs now look like they belong to a leper so I up the tempo to distance my self from the pursuing beasties. It is a light head wind i find myself riding into but as I summit the drummochter pass the wind changes direction and find my self coasting for long durations on my way to Dalwhinnie following the cycle path alongside the A9.

I roll into Dalwhinnie and still there is barely a sole to be seen and as quickly as I entered the town I have disappeared out the other side and on my way to Newtonmore and Kingussie. This particular stretch of tarmac is really beautiful and apart from one camper van I see no other vehicle. It's just me, the road, the surrounding hills and country side with a light mist falling. A real magical feeling of happy solitude. I keep a steady rhythm and before I know it I enter Kingussie. 3 hours in and my stomach tells me that I have been riding a steady pace and demands some sustenance. Taking Inspiration from Phil's ride last week I crack open the camel back and tuck into half of medium pork pie and lovely snake sweeties. I am revitalised. Back on the bike I follow the A95 from Kingussie to Aviemore. Having had my 9 o'clock snack my thoughts turn to a certain Mountain Cafe. The next 12 mile disappear with my thoughts firmly fixed on the all day breakfast which was looming in my future. You have to concentrate a bit more on the road at this part of the journey as the A95 can get pretty busy especially during this time of year but I make it no bother to Aviemore and the MC.

Order up

1 All day breakfast

1 espresso

1 double shot latte

1 pint water



Superb!



Back on the bike with a slight feeling of "Perhaps I have overdone it on the food" I roll out of Aviemore with Carrbridge famous for the old bridge of Carr which was built in 1717 as a foot bridge to the north being my next destination. I continue on the A95 which is a bit dull and the traffic has defo picked up since my stop. Concentrate! Keep to the white line, black pudding stay down!!! I cruise through Carrbridge stopping for some photos on my way to the slochd summit the second highest point of my ride north. By this stage the road slowly rises and after nearly five hours on the bike my legs where definetly feeling the long climb north. This is the slowest point for me on the ride and my lack of riding this year was showing. I grit my teeth and dig deep, the lactic in my legs is building but after a while the pain goes and I feel like I'm getting my second wind. My head has sent a message to the legs saying "get on with it, we don't get to do this very often so enjoy it" Thankfully my legs listened and I summit over the Slochd Pass.


Old Bridge of Carr



The approach up to the Slochd summit.





From here to Inverness it is predominately down hill and my big ring is now getting a workout. My Maxxis razes are whirrring below me as I wind along the back road to Tomatin, a road which crisscrosses the railway line to the north. This road passes under some stunning railway architecture in the form a several viaducts built way back in the day and still being used today. Truly stunning pieces of engineering.

Passing through the sleepy hollow of Tomatin I meet with the A9 proper for the first time. This is the only juncture on the route were you have to cross one of Scotland's most dangerous roads. Thankfully it is only a crossing and not ride along it. I'm always confused by the Landsend to John A Groats set that insist on riding up the A9 proper to achieve there goal endangering there lives as this is the quickest route from A to B. Does this not go against what cycle touring is all about?

Across the A9 and the route takes me through Moy and onto Culloden the sight of the last military battle fought on British soil. It is here I get my first sight of the Moray Firth. My spirits are lifted at the prospect of nearing the end of my journey and my tempo is raised again from the meander that I was enjoying. The roll down from Culloden is a fast one and the number 7 Sustrans route signs start to become a bit thin on the ground. Several wrong turns later and a trip through a traveling Gypsies camp I find my self cruising past The big Tesco (other supermarkets are available) in Inverness with the Kessock Bridge in my view.

Happy!

What a difference entering the metropolis of Inverness by comparison to the solitude and quiet roads and cycle paths I'd been riding for the past 6 and half hours. I navigate the traffic and make my way onto the Kessick Bridge with my final destination of the Black Isle on the other side. Stop for a quick Kodak moment with the wind blowing a hoooly. Across the bridge and I'm met by one final big hill over to Munlochy. By this time my legs are surprisingly still in good shape and I crest the top the hill with a punch of my fist into the air knowing I had a 6 mile downhill/flat ride to Rosemarkie beach. I cruise the final 6 miles with huge a grin from ear to ear pondering what I'd just achieved and the joy it gave me. I roll onto Rosemarkie Beach to be met by my family who had driven up earlier during the day with an icy cold can of coke and a bottle of Bitter and twisted ale. Bliss.




Thanks to you all in the team, I'm really inspired by your efforts. Reading your efforts be it racing or just riding for the crac has inspired me to ride the longest ride I've ever undertaken. It people like yourselves who make this sport and lifestyle so cool. Keep up the big rides, keep up the racing.



Thanks



Stats

175km

7.5 hours in the saddle

plus 90min stoppage time for food, photos and mechanicals.

6 comments:

Chris_M said...

Neato! And with bonus breakfast at the Mountain Cafe...

Cycle Tourers... I remember passing a [heavily bearded] gentleman southbound on the A9 on the descent to Hoose O'Bruar - his steed of choice was a Sinclair C5.

Scary on so many levels ; )

Phil The Horse said...

Good work! sounds like an ace pedal. Glad to hear you only encountered Jelly snakes ;-)

andytrailfettler said...

Bloody good on ya. Awesome ride and write up.

Should be able to get up for the gentlemans cross ride on the 29th. catch you then.

martysavalas said...

fine work. scariest bit musta been passing that clootie well* at avoch, no?

see any dolphins down at the point?

* for those that don't know - see here - how awesome is that aberfeldy ufo tee?

Graham said...

Nice ride mate. Looks bloody cold though. So now that you've done the warm up what is the main event!

Markdubya said...

Cool Andy it will be good to see you bud.

Thankfully I managed to miss the well of much ming taking an alternative road. This is the place where your old pants go to die. Ever wondered where that sock went out of the last wash you did? It was teleported to the clooty well.

"Looks bloody cold" Your such an Aussie Graham. You need to get harder mate, the cold and rain is your friend!!